Planes, boats and trains…and bus stops, the chances are that Graham Nash knows a tune or two about them or he has probably written one and we heard about them all tonight. At G Live in Guildford he demonstrated his human side, he showed us a part of himself that was emotional and poetic, stoic and romantic as he showed off his new album and awesome back catalogue.
Produced by Shane Fontayne, who accompanied Graham on guitar, This Path Tonight is his first album of new material in fourteen years. It covers reflection and transition by a performer whose career, both as a solo artist and as a member of The Hollies and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, has spanned more than five decades.
From loving Joni Mitchell & Rita Coolidge to going on the biggest USA tour since The Beatles with CSN&Y, having public spats with ex band members, break-ups and reforming groups, being a photographer and a collector of images, 74-year-old Nash, has a worldly perspective that has been shaped and tempered by decades of tumultuous relationships, unwavering conviction and deep-felt experiences…and he still has all his own hair and a full set of teeth.
Graham Nash is not a name that roles off the tongue when speaking of great singer songwriter’s but when you see the list of songs he has written and who he has composed some of them with, you would be sure to include him. Lancashire born, he spent this early music life in Salford with the British group that he co founded, The Hollies. He wrote and sang on a lot of their recordings and early hits. During a USA tour with The Hollies he met Steven Stills and David Crosby and a few years later he left The Hollies to form Crosby Stills Nash and further on, of course, Crosby Stills Nash & Young.
At the packed out G Live theatre there is a minimalist hippy stage set with Morroccan rugs and candles. Nash and his incredible guitarist/producer Shane Fontayne play though the opener’s Bus Stop, King Midas In Reverse and Marrakesh Express. Nash gives stories about each and what tales he tells but the significance of these songs in not lost on this knowledgeable audience. Nash was instrumental in encouraging The Hollies to write their own music, he wrote complex songs that led to a rift in the band and then moved to a new group where his life experiences would form the basis for most of his songs.
What comes across as quite extraordinary is that Nash’s singing voice is notably better than his speaking voice. Delicate and crisp and beautifully performed are Sleep Song and Wind On The Water. Heartfelt and moving Myself At Last, Marguerita and Back Home, then epic story telling with raw emotion in Cathedral and Mississippi Burning. Yes, he has a good voice but where it becomes quite exceptional is in those harmonies and the bond he has formed with Shane Fontayne, who has his own long musical story, it is quite clear to hear and they are brilliant together.
Oh and he played the hits…Our House, Teach Your Children and a great second encore of Chicago. There was so much love, energy, audience engament and openness that at the end Nash was rightly twice afforded a standing ovation. Our House was dedicated on the night to Tim Andrews who has Parkinson’s disease and wishes to be photographed in as many ways and days possible by different photographers. Nash gladly obliged by photographing him earlier in the afternoon on the tour bus.
If love, rivalry and tripping were part of the song writing process in the early days then now it is being comfortable and at one with himself but with hint that there is so much more to explore.
Review and Photography by Simon Jay Price. Graham Nash at G Live, Guildford on 25th May 2016.